Three easy ways to make the residence halls better

We need to stop abusive behavior by CAs and have an avenue for feedback.

I spent my first two years here living in University housing. I’ve met some great people, but there are some things I think could have been better. I have three simple and inexpensive ideas for improving the overall experience in residence halls.

1. Make involvement easier

The only apparent way to influence anything in the residence halls is to attend hall council meetings. These meetings often are perceived by students as being time-consuming, bureaucratic and incapable of accomplishing anything worthwhile. In many cases, these meetings conflict with classes, work, activities or other obligations. This semester, I would have to skip Short Calculus every other Monday if I wished to attend. Let’s be honest ” lots of students are just outright lazy or apathetic.

If the residence halls want student input, they need to make it as easy as possible. University Dining Services puts up suggestion boxes. Suggestions receive a response from the dining hall manager, which are posted for everyone to read. Couldn’t community advisers do the same, posting student suggestions and responses on their doors? Since most community advisers attend house meetings anyway, they can bring up good ideas that other students have suggested and post a response on their door.

2. A little more transparency

At the very beginning of freshman year, my CA announced to our house that we had several hundred dollars in house funds to spend. My favorite idea was to spend the money on an ice machine. After all, the only way to get ice all year long was to make your own (and nobody had enough space in their mini-fridges to do that anyway) or go down to the front desk and claim you suffered yet another crippling groin injury and you needed something to handle the horrible swelling. But the end of the year came around, and no one seemed to know what happened to the house funds. It would have been nice if everyone had something slipped under their doors one day saying, “Vote on how you’d like to spend the money,” or at least, “Here’s where your money went.” Given the high cost of living in University housing, I’d like to know where it’s all going.

3. It’s a community, not a police state. Most of the CAs I’ve met are fairly reasonable. Yes, they’ll come in and write up your room if you’re causing trouble, but if you’re not disruptive, they’ll leave you alone. But there is a significant minority who feels they must go “above and beyond” in enforcing policies. Last year, some friends of mine came up to their room only to find their CA with her ear up to the door, hoping for their roommates to say something incriminating so the CA could write up the room. A few weeks later, the exact same thing happened, again! My own room was written up only once last year. The reason? A CA walking by overheard someone say the word marijuana. The assistant hall director agreed that the First Amendment doesn’t apply to University housing and required one of my roommates to complete an education sanction. The most frustrating thing is that there doesn’t seem to be any sort of recourse students can take to stop this sort of abusive behavior. Hall directors tend to believe whatever the CA claims in a write-up and assumes the student is guilty unless they can prove their innocence.

This system only serves to make generally well-behaved students cynical and bitter about residence hall administration. The best way to solve this problem is to have a third party that students can talk to about these disputes, similar to how the Student Conflict Resolution Center handles academic or financial troubles.

Matt Kleiber is a University student. Please send comments to [email protected].